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'Pond scum' threatens to smother Aydın's Azap Lake

SÖKE, Aydın - Doğan News Agency | 6/13/2010 12:00:00 AM | LATİF SANSÜR

Native flora and fauna in Azap Lake, in the Söke district of the Aegean city of Aydın, is threatened by a toxic bacterium known as blue-green algae.

Native flora and fauna in Azap Lake, in the Söke district of the Aegean city of Aydın, is threatened by a toxic bacterium known as blue-green algae.

The lake has attracted attention in recent years as many fish species living in it have died out. Authorities failed to act, and the lake now faces the threat of total destruction. The Ecosystem Protection and Nature Lovers Association, or EKODOSD, said the lake’s water should not be drunk even by animals as it could cause cancer.

Erol Kesici, an academic from Süleyman Demirel University, conducted research at the lake with other EKODOSD members after the color of its water changed to an unusual shade of green. Their research showed that the microbial cluster that changed the color of the water is the dangerous blue-green algae, a bacterium that spreads rapidly.

“The algae explosion shows how dirty the lake is,” Kesici said. “Reclaiming the lake will be very difficult as plants have invaded every corner of this drinking-water resource. If plant development in a given lake is not restrained, that lake would completely dry up over time. The invasion of blue-green algae is the beginning of the end.”

According to Kesici, “The failure to protect the water level in natural lakes will lead to a magnification of the effects of the sun’s rays.”

“Thus, vaporization and a rise in the amount of plants affect biological diversity,” he added. “On top of this problem, waste thrown into the lake has also increased the level of organic pollution. We should not view our lakes as dump sites.”

Kesici said the water from Azap Lake should not be consumed by any living creature, human or animal. “Fish caught from the lake should not be eaten, either, and this water should not be used for irrigation,” he said. “The people should be warned. This bacterium paves the way for various illnesses, including liver cancer.”

[HH] Left to die

EKODOSD chief Bahattin Sürücü said Azap Lake, which is home to many bird species and is a key feeding ground for storks, has been left to its fate because it is not protected by any legal decree. “The birds are all going,” Sürücü said. “We have been monitoring changes in the lake, taking photos and warning officials. But we have had no replies and no official research has been conducted. The lake is dying in front of everyone’s eyes. Its water is changing its color. The fish are dying.”

Blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, are groups of photosynthetic bacteria commonly referred to as “pond scum.” Though they are most often blue-green in color, they can also appear in a reddish-purple, or even brown hue. They generally grow in lakes, ponds and slow-moving streams where the water is warm and enriched with nutrients such as phosphorus or nitrogen.

When a blue-green algae bloom dies off, the algae’s cells sink and are broken down by microbes. This breakdown process requires oxygen and can create a biological oxygen demand. Increases in biological oxygen demand result in decreases in oxygen concentration in the water, which can adversely affect fish and other aquatic life, and can even result in fish extinctions.

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